The Winnipeg Free Press is working so hard at being trendy that its forgotten something important---to report the news.
This week they were hyping an appearance at the trendy Winnipeg Free Press News Cafe by trendy millionaire moocher Gail Asper.
News Cafe website:
"Join the Free Press for a (late) Power Lunch with Gail Asper, No. 2 on the Winnipeg Free Press Power 30 list, at the Winnipeg Free Press News Café... Hear the inside scoop from the woman behind the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, one of the most-anticipated projects in Winnipeg's history."
18 people showed up.
Once Gail Asper got her mouth running, she unleashed a series of bombshells, none of which has been reported in the pages of the FP. So we'll do their job instead.
Gail Asper revealed:
* The fund-raising Friends of the CMHR haven't raised a penny in the first seven months of 2011.
* The cost of construction has risen $3.6 million.
* The cost of the museum might go even higher, and Gail Asper doesn't care if it does.
* She expects the CMHR will eventually attract as many as 850,000 people a year to Winnipeg.
- The $25 million hole in the construction budget that was there in December is still there today, and that's after factoring in another $3.6 million from the City of Winnipeg.
The new cost overrun is obviously being plugged by the City. This explains why Mayor Sam Katz spearheaded a city council resolution to kickback precisely $3.6 million to the museum from taxes it will allegedly pay. The CMHR hasn't paid its property or school taxes for two years.
- Host/interviewer Geoff Kirbyson asked as gently as possible whether costs were still rising.
With another year and a half until the museum opens, he said, is there a chance that the fundraising goal might go up even more?
"I can't really say," answered Gail Asper. "I certainly hope not. There's contingency funds.."
No, there's not. The contingency was eaten up two years ago. There's no gravy left.
- Still, Gail Asper patted herself on the back for a job well done regardless of cost.
"I think we're doing incredibly well coming in at $45 million (in construction cost overruns) for obviously what is a really, really complicated building."
- For the first time ever the source of the estimate of tourists expected to visit the CMHR was revealed.
Museum CEO Stu Murray has been claiming its from a study prepared by Manitoba Statistics, but Gail Asper said the number 250,000 came from a museum planning and design company in Toronto.
It took no time to dig up the name of the company, Lord Cultural Resources.
Asper said they told her that the CMHR building in New York would attract two million people a year, but in an isolated city like Winnipeg, 250,000 people was possible.
She said that she not only expects the museum to reach the 250,000 tourists a year mark, but to exceed it by leaps and bounds. Her model for the CMHR project, the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain, now attracts 850,000 people a year ten years after opening, she said.
- Asper inadvertently exposed more than expected about the cozy relationship she has with the Winnipeg Free Press, a close financial and personal relationship that exceeds any ethical boundary between a newspaper and a newsmaker.
It's proof that anything written in the FP about the CMHR is nothing more than propaganda.
In thanking donors to the museum, Asper added
"including the Winnipeg Free Press. The Free Press has been a phenomenal financial supporter. You've given us a lot of coverage. You've also given us major ad space so we can celebrate our victories on the campaign from the Free Press. Thank you very much for all of that. I really appreciate it."
Even Kirbyson, a reporter at the FP, appeared embarassed by the gushing disclosure into how hand-in-glove the newspaper's relationship with Gail Asper is.
But she wasn't finished.
- Feeling among friends, she felt free to engage in the insufferable hubris you expect from the Asper clan.
Kirbyson was setting up a question about how much credit the museum deserved for bringing tourists to Winnipeg when so many other developments are taking place, from the return of the Jets, to a new airport, to a new stadium when Gail Asper interrupted him.
"A new stadium."
"A new stadium," he said, picking up on her reference to the family connection.
"Thanks to David Asper," she said. "David Asper Stadium, I think it should be called."
Name a stadium after a failed businessman who scammed the city for $4 million?
Are you trying to intimate there would be no new stadium without David Asper?
There were several other stadium plans in the mix, from successful businessmen, and the outstanding question is why the province and Sam Katz (okay, the province, we know Katz is in the Asper pocket) favoured David Asper over the others.
His wacko scheme stunk from Day One and everybody knew it. Now we're stuck with a stadium we can't afford in a location that doesn't want it.
For generations we'll be taking school tax money from children in one end of town to pay for a stadium in another part of town. And David Asper collected $4 million from taxpayers to repay him for a risk nobody but his ego asked him to take.
So the taxpayer is stuck making good on a gamble he made and for that we should name a stadium after him? Maybe it makes sense to Sam Katz.
- And it makes sense to Gail Asper who's now on the gravy train herself. Free travel and accomodations around the world for life, thanks to her position on the CMHR board. She gets to travel and insult all the world's ethnic groups who don't agree with her strident extremist positions on museum content while the Free Press kowtows to her.
Which is why Kirbyson never asked her about her insults aimed at the Ukrainian community of Winnipeg and Canada. Instead, his first question was:
"Did you get Winnipeg Jets tickets?"
"Did you get Winnipeg Jets tickets?"